This page includes President's Corner columns from the 2006 issues of Across the Fence Post.
Room for More Fun
By Maurice D. Wozniak, President of WFSC
My hobby is not really the only reason that we moved to a larger house in December, but it definitely was a factor. Iím hoping that a little extra room will let me enjoy stamp collecting more.
Iím sure many collectors will identify with the situation: The second bedroom in our house was pressed into triple duty as the family office and computer room as well as the stamp room and a bedroom when we had company. If more than one of the kids visited at once, someone had to sleep in the living room, and if some of the visitors had their children in tow, it seemed like pioneer days at our place, with bodies in repose in any available nook or cranny.
The stamp collection suffered, especially because retirement left me more available time to spend on my hobby. Whereas I once could tuck my hobby onto a shelf in a small closet and address it after every stamp show I attended, my interests expanded apace. Besides collecting United States stamps, I added a single foreign country. Then, almost reluctantly, I added a topical collection. Also, I needed room for a collection of first-day programs from ceremonies I attended.
Thereís more. I discovered that I loved to examine odd lots, which some dealers offer at shows and at auction. I usually can find a treasure or two hidden away in the junk packed into these boxes. (Weíre not necessarily talking about monetary treasure here, you understand, just something interesting or intriguing.) The problem is that the rest of the contents of the boxes tends to remain in my possession Ė foreign stamps that I donít actively collect, covers of one kind or another, old literature, old catalogs, even things I canít identify immediately.
To satisfy my craving for information concerning these little pieces of paper that I collect, I have accumulated sets of reference materials. These are invaluable to me as a writer; thereís precious little that I have discovered on my own, but I am happy to credit an acknowledged expert with a little tidbit of information. That reference material takes space also.
You can understand that my stamp collection had evolved to a stamp accumulation and demanded space in my bedroom closet and even in the garage. It was definitely a factor in our needing elbowroom.
With a third bedroom, we have designated one as the Stamp Room. It will also have a collapsible bed disguised as a small sofa, so visitors can use it as an overflow guest bedroom.
Previously, with my collection tucked away neatly, I didnít get it out often enough. I hope that now I will get at it more often and actually be able to manage it better. That includes getting rid of the stuff that I donít really collect, getting it into the hands of people who do.
Winter is traditionally when we philatelists spend the most time with our collections. Thatís why there are big national stamp shows from late summer on. Iím really looking forward to this winter. I hope itíll mark a rebirth in my collecting in my new Stamp Room.
Of course, I hope you have fun with your own collection also. While youíre at it, please share your happiness with someone else Ė a younger person, perhaps, a co-worker who wonít think youíre a geek if you collect stamps, or a club member, or (through an article for this newsletter) with your fellow collectors.
A Call to Gather
By Maurice D. Wozniak, President of WFSC
After one of the first-day-of-issue ceremonies at Stamp show in Grand Rapids, Mich., this past summer, I cornered John Hotchner to ask his advice. John is incredibly active in the hobby of stamp collecting and has been for years. He writes columns for several philatelic publications. He has books to his credit. He holds officer positions in stamp collecting organizations on all levels. His collections are the kind I would be proud to have.
From our previous brief conversations and from his writing, I find him to have a sensible, positive approach to the stamp collecting community. (That means I agree with what he says.)
I told John I had just been elected president of the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs and identified a slowly dwindling membership base as the main concern of the organization. I said I had read two of his columns in U.S. Stamp News that addressed that aspect in general. I asked if he had any suggestions for a new president on how to promote the hobby and spread the fun.
John referred me to the Federation of New York Philatelic Societies and its bimonthly publication, the Stamp Insider. Coincidentally, I had just picked up a copy of that newsletter from the free literature table at the show. It's a spiffy publication -- 60 pocketsize pages or so, filled with photos, stories, ads and information.
Also coincidentally the latest copy of Stamp Insider arrived in my mailbox the day after the minutes of the last WFSC board meeting, which reminded me of the forthcoming Wisconsin Philatelic Exposition, the annual stamp show for the Federation and held this year in Rockford, Ill. It's traditional for the WFSC president to issue, in the February Across the Fence Post, a call to Wisconsin stamp collectors to gather at this meeting.
For the record, this is it, a call to convention at WISCOPEX 2006, March 11-12, at Forest Hills Lodge, 9500 Forest Hills Rd., Rockford, Ill. Planners have an interesting array of features on tap over the two days, and I am looking forward to the show and to renewing acquaintances in the bourse aisles and at meetings.
Member clubs should appoint delegates to attend the annual business meeting, which will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday.
This is the 75th anniversary of the Federation. Seventy-five years is a significant milestone in the life of any organization, and I hope as many collectors as possible will visit Rockford for this big show. I think you'll find stamps and covers at dealers' booths that will tempt you.
Perhaps more importantly for the future of the hobby, you will find opportunity to share with other collectors. The most recent issue of Stamp Insider urges at the top of the title page, "Share your Hobby!" and on the last editorial page an editor suggests, "Positively Promote Philately" in various ways -- telling people you are a stamp collector, attending shows, writing for stamp publications, and guiding newcomers, among others.
Promoting philately is a concept I have repeated in this column. John Hotchner has done it for years. The New York Federation does it. You can do it, too, and if you do the hobby will be healthier for your efforts, and you'll have more fun.
I'll see you in March, I hope.
By Maurice D. Wozniak, President of WFSC
Three or four years ago, a fellow stamp club member asked me if I'd take a look at his exhibit at the club show and tell him what I thought of it. Well, I can't say I was impressed. It consisted of one page (not one frame -- one page) of three stamps total, along with a text asking viewers to tell him if they knew anything about the stamps. My friend apparently had been unable to identify them by using standard stamp catalogs.
Formal stamp exhibits are supposed to follow strict rules regarding what is allowed to be included and how it is presented.
A stamp exhibit, I assure you, does not consist of three crummy stamps that the collector is trying to identify. Rather, the typical exhibit you will find at the major shows around the country, and even at the regional shows here in Wisconsin, consists of frame after frame with copy after copy of the stamp a collector has chosen to feature. You will find singles and multiples, fronts and backs. You'll find stamps on cover. There might be essays and specimens. Errors and oddities, tiny paper occlusions and flyspecks of extraneous ink. The text will show why each example is noteworthy or even unique. And, of course, these hundreds of copies of the collector's pride and joy could well be a rare stamp that most of us will only see in photographs -- or in exhibits.
Aside from the mind-numbing volume and complexity, this kind of scholarly approach adds much to the richness of our hobby, and the exhibits elicit awe.
Another kind of philatelic exhibit is based on a topical collection. Badgers, Donkeys and Wolves come to mind. These are the kinds of exhibits that often win the best-of-show voting by the public at stamp shows. The general public, of course, knows nothing about the strict rules of what goes into a philatelic exhibit. All most people know is what attracts them and what they like.
My friend's so-called exhibit didn't fit into either of these categories. It wasn't an exhaustive study on a single issue, nor did it tell a story through stamps.
At my club, members are encouraged to prepare exhibits for the club's small, annual show. The exhibits are unjudged, so members don't risk the scorn of judges; the only eyes to fall on these exhibits will belong to fellow collectors and the few members of the public who wander by. Still, few of us have been willing to display any portion of our hobby in public.
I'm sorry to say I was among those too embarrassed to exhibit.
Well, embarrassment wasn't the whole reason behind my refusal. There was also the thought that no portion of my collection could be assembled into a coherent exhibit, at least not one that abides by the rules of exhibition.
This year, I told the club president I intended to prepare an exhibit.
He was supportive. "All you need is nine pages," he said. One of the members, he added in a spirit of encouragement, merely pulls out album pages and lays them in a frame. I remembered seeing one of his -- pages of revenues.
I told him I would have only one or two pages.
"One or two frames?" he asked.
"No, pages. With just one stamp," I said, kind of sheepishly.
I figure it's at least a start.
That's not even as many stamps as were in my friend's exhibit that I was deriding, and it wouldn't qualify as a real exhibit, but I think people might find it interesting.
Okay, I'll tell you what it is: It's a royal cipher label, not even a postage stamp but a "stamp" such as those that helped foment the American Revolution against Great Britain. It depicts an intricate monogram of George III, very similar to those in use in 1776 to indicate payment of taxes imposed by Parliament, but this one dates from the early 1800s. It is worth only a few bucks, but when I found out what it is I was glad I had not tossed it out when I found it in a box of miscellaneous stuff I bought at a stamp show.
Next, I might tackle an exhibit of my collection of stamps for St. Francis of Assisi. With that one, I might eventually follow the rules for exhibits, but even if I don't people probably will enjoy it. And, importantly, I'll feel like I am doing something to help promote the hobby I love.
By Maurice D. Wozniak, President of WFSC
A day after my wife and I returned from my latest stamp vacation, I read John L. Leszak's editor's column in Mekeel's & Stamps for Feb. 17, in which he told of a friend who took two weeks off his job to lock himself away from the world and work on his stamps. When they met for lunch afterward, Leszak wrote, the friend looked somewhat disheveled but refreshed.
I understand. Three different times, I have reserved timeshare resort accommodations and spent an entire week poring through boxes and stock books of stamps. I would break only for a trip to the pool or exercise room or to fix myself a meal. I couldn't believe how the hours sped by. Sometimes, after nightfall, I would think to myself, "Maybe just one more little pile, and then I really should get to bed," and the next time I looked at the clock it was after midnight.
Early the next morning, after a bowl of cereal and orange juice, I'd start again, and play with stamps all day long.
I mention this because the season of vacations is nearly upon us, and many stamp collectors who work for a living will be planning relaxing getaways. Those whose hobbies involve attaching expensive lures to underwater tree roots or whacking little dimpled white balls into other bodies of water or impenetrable jungles think nothing of including these fun times in their vacations. Philatelists may want to devote at least part of their vacation to their hobby also.
The trip I referred to at the beginning of this column, for instance, included a satisfying stop at the St. Louis Stamp Expo.
A first-day ceremony for three new stamps and a major auction were attractions. (Even if you don't take part, an auction with lively floor bidding can be a fun and educational way to see how prices vary for stamps.) With ought breaking my personal bank, I found several stamps for my St. Francis of Assisi collection that I had been unable to find in dealers' stocks at Wisconsin shows. I enjoyed the exhibits, including one from a Wisconsin collector. And I renewed acquaintances with some friends.
This time, my wife stayed with me at the show or retreated to our room to read. While she is not a collector, she enjoys looking at the exhibits and likes the stamp ceremonies. At some shows, she'll share conversation with another spouse in a lunch or lounge area. Other times, she'll seek something outside the show, such as a special museum exhibit she discovered in Grand Rapids, Mich., while I was at Stamp show last year.
To get to that show, we included a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Canada, and finally returned home via the new high-speed ferry across Lake Michigan.
Later this year, we're hoping to get to Washington, D.C., for the big international stamp show that starts May 27.
Besides attending stamp shows, there are other ways to incorporate your hobby into your travels. For example, you may be able to work in a visit to a stamp club. For starters, you can find the names of member clubs in the Wisconsin Federation of Stamp Clubs on page 2 of each issue of this newsletter.
When we took a family vacation in Barbados a couple of years ago, I contacted the Barbados Stamp Club some weeks ahead of time and learned that a meeting was scheduled while we were planning to be there. We heard an interesting talk on island festivals, I got some help in identifying stamps in my Barbados collection, and my wife found someone at the meeting to talk with.
Here's another idea: Look for stamp dealers in cities you pass through -- St. Louis and Branson, Mo., for example.
Or check the schedule of release dates and sites of United States stamps. If you can arrange a vacation trip to coincide with a first-day ceremony, you may find it worthwhile to stop. They're usually free and may include entertainment or an educational talk.
You get the idea. With a little extra planning, you'll be able to incorporate your hobby into your vacation, and that'll make your vacation even more fun.
Latest Update: March 6, 2006